With a fine day in the offing, it was another early morning train trip, this time to Chatswood where I made a quick detour for coffee before continuing on to North Ryde station. Walking down through the technology park brought me back to where I’d left the GNW on Monday.
A short way ahead I came to the Fairyland site, a popular picnic area in the mid 20th century that fell into disuse in the 1970s. I’d also stopped here on last year’s kayak paddle up the river where I’d found a geocache, and at the time had an uneasy haunting feeling, suspecting I might have perhaps come here on a picnic as a young child.
It all looks very different now, with the cleared grassy area long gone and a fire a few years back changing the landscape yet again. No fairies now but there was plenty of croaking in the adjoining wetlands – perhaps the fairies have been unkissed by the prince and turned into frogs.
Leaving fairy/frog-land behind, the track climbed into the backstreets of suburbia before passing under Delhi Road and arriving at the weir separating the tidal lower river from the upstream fresh.
Last time this presented something of a challenge getting our kayaks across, with the downstream embankment very slippery, but no such problems today. I also remembered the fresh water being a lot colder than the salt, but sticking a toe in I couldn’t tell much difference today. Neither enticed me to want to go in swimming!
Alongside the weir is now a fish ladder, allowing fish that breed upstream to bypass the obstruction. I didn’t see any fish negotiating it today but I’m sure it’d be fun to watch.
After passing across the weir, the track surprisingly turned right as if going back downstream, but it turned left again alongside a side creek and a large GNW sign. Following the arrow along the creek bank soon had me scratching my head as I came to a Private Property sign, so it was out with the guide book which said to follow the road instead of the creek.
Back on the track, I climbed a series of steps, with the path then following the eastern side of the river high above its steep gully. A few minutes later I came to a tee junction with the only GNW sign pointing back the way I’d come. Out with the book again, which assured me I needed to turn right at this point. Some signage maintenance is required around here, methinks.
The track eventually came out on the edge of suburban Lindfield where my heart sank as I saw a lopsided Track Closed sign and some torn red-and-white tape.
While pondering whether the track was indeed still closed, a couple of walkers came down towards me, but they said they’d only gone a couple of hundred metres and didn’t know if it was closed further along. Not wanting to risk a long turn-back, I opted for the suburban detour. A subsequent check online confirmed that the track remains closed following June’s east coast low, with no indication if or when it’ll reopen.
Soon after completing the detour, I came to a short side track down to the Blue Hole which the guidebook recommended. Unfortunately the water looked more an unhealthy shade of green, with the half-buried tyre and other litter on the far bank not adding to the scenic beauty. Scratch that one from the tourist brochure.
At the top of the next climb I reached a major track junction, pleased to see I had only 7km to go. I was halfway to Thornleigh and it wasn’t even lunch time yet!
Taking the left fork down led me under De Burgh’s Bridge, with the roar of heavy vehicles almost overwhelming after the peace and quiet of the river.
From there the track widened as it passed along a narrow strip between the backs of houses and the deep river gorge far below. Occasionally I could hear the faint sound of falling water but the thick foliage prevented all but the briefest glimpse. Underfoot it was a very pleasant leaf litter on sandy dirt, one of my favourite barefoot walking surfaces. The day had also warmed considerably, as this photo suggests.
Some time later I came to another track junction and sign.
What? 7.6km? But, but it was only 7km a kilometre back! Was this a consequence of the expanding universe? Would I ever reach Thornleigh at this rate?
Such ponderings were cast aside when I found a rock shelf on the side of the track affording a bit of a view down over a small waterfall, where I decided to have a well-earned lunch.
Pressing on, the track soon descended to a weir over a side creek, with a board sitting above the spillway for easy crossing. Steps and a conveniently placed handle made it easy to negotiate the concrete block on the far side, but I’m still unsure what purpose this weir actually serves.
Rising up again on the other side, the track soon passed the location of a geocache hidden amongst a rocky outcrop. After a quick find, I continued along to where the track joined a concrete service trail popular with the local cyclists and joggers. The road, because it was now more a road than a track, descended to a more substantial weir across the river.
At the crossing the GNW track left this super-highway, becoming a rather badly eroded service trail running parallel and adjacent to the river. There were plenty of deep muddy sections, making me glad I was barefoot, and in places there seemed to be more water on the track than in the river!
With Thornleigh inching closer, the track began crisscrossing the river. I can see now why this could very easily become impassible after heavy or prolonged rain, making me glad I did the walk ahead of tomorrow’s forecast deluge.
After the third crossing of what was now an almost dry bed, the track left the river behind, never to be seen again.
Instead I arrived at some steps, lots and lots of steps going up, up and up out of the gully. Just what my legs needed at the end of a long walk!
Finally I reached the top where the track emerged on the edge of Thornleigh oval and another waiting geocache. The find made and recorded, I wandered across to the road and back into suburbia for the final walk up to the railway station.
At the end of that last kilometre I bought a much-needed blueberry smoothie before tapping on and boarding the next northbound train. Thirty-two kilometres down (which I think includes the ferry ride to Woolwich) and only two hundred and eighteen left to reach Newcastle!
Coming up next: Thornleigh to Hornsby.